I am the proud father of two sons, now in their twenties, who–like most such humans–passed successfully through what are known as the “teenaged” years. During the same period I was the owner of two male cats. As I saw it, my job in the case of the former was to raise them into upstanding young men. In the latter case my job as my wife saw it was to raise–by shovel or whatever other means came to hand–the dead chipmunks, squirrels and field mice that they brought home to us, and deposit them into a garbage can.
A clear distinction, you might think, and so did I, until one night, as she went out the door on her way to a fun evening with a girl friend, she said “Would you check the garage? It smells like the cats left something dead out there.”
Resigned to my role in the universe, I complied with her request, and went to the garage to look around. After a thorough inspection, I determined that the odor she referred to emanated not from a dead animal but instead from my son’s baseball bag, which contained a catcher’s mitt, a batting helmet, sunflower seeds, dirty socks and an athletic supporter that carbon dating established was worn by Harmon Killebrew during the 1959 All-Star Game.
An easy mistake to make, I thought, and then it hit me: What if I suddenly went blind, or contracted amnesia as characters in 1960’s television dramas so often did in order to provide the plot twist that enabled sponsors to keep viewers glued to their seats in order to bombard them with detergent commercials? How could I tell my teenaged sons from dead rodents?
When you stop to think about it, it’s not an easy question to answer. I sat down at my desk before I contracted amnesia and wrote down a list of similarities and differences between the two types of organisms in case I ever found myself thrown back on my native instincts, like an animal in the wild, forced to choose between two comparably smelly objects. Here they are; I hope you find them helpful as you decide whom–or what–to thank for your Father’s Day gifts:
1. Teenaged boys will ask for your car keys; dead rodents will not.
2. A dead rodent will not come when it is called; neither will a teenaged boy.
3. Dead rodents cost less to feed than teenaged boys.
4. A teenaged boy may finish his homework if you yell at him; a dead rodent will not.
5. If a teenaged boy in a car hits a tree, he will blame it on the car and the tree. If a dead rodent falls out of a tree, he will take full responsibility.
6. Because of demographic trends, many colleges and universities are actively recruiting teenaged boys so as to offset an upsurge in female enrollment. According to the American Association of University Women, most liberal arts colleges are not currently accepting applications from dead rodents–except for positions as lab assistants in Introductory Biology.
7. Finally, and most mysteriously, teenaged girls are sometimes attracted to teenaged boys, but never to dead rodents.
There’s no accounting for tastes, unless it’s the Old Spice Body Wash.
Appeared originally in The Metrowest Daily News.